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News Journal - Legislature should find a way to fund Web transparency bill

When Republican Rep. Greg Lavelle first introduced a package of bills two years ago that would put Delaware state government and school district financial records online, Democratic leadership killed the effort by inserting fiscal notes.

Fiscal notes are a notorious tool used by opponents of legislation because they require a committee hearing. But Democrats now control the House and have promised to advance an agenda of more open and accountable government. With House Speaker Bob Gilligan’s support, a bill putting the Legislature under the Freedom of Information Act passed easily.

Rep. Lavelle has introduced his package of bills again. With government spending at a premium in this financial crisis, it’s all the more reason the use of the public’s money should be opened to all who have access to a computer.
But the financial crisis itself now threatens the passage of the bills that would require more transparency on how the government and schools do business.

Among the requirements in Rep. Lavelle’s package – which is co-sponsored in the Senate by Democratic Sens. George Bunting and Karen Peterson – are a searchable database Web site for the state budget, a posting of checking account activity for agencies and the listing of contracts entered into by school districts and financial distributions by the Delaware Economic Development Office.

Gov. Jack Markell, who supported the idea of online transparency when he was state treasurer, has set up a new Web site to track how the federal stimulus package money is being spent. Good.

Rep. Lavelle admits that any bill with a significant fiscal note will face an uphill battle this year given the tight economic times.

Which is all the more reason the money should be found to do it.

From delawareonline.com, 3/31/2009

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